Biodiversity in the most interesting of places – Sara Getson

  1. Biodiversity can be a tough subject to understand sometimes and to explain. After reading through this module, in a paragraph of 150-250 words, how would you go about explaining the subject of biodiversity to another person unfamiliar with the term?

Working on a degree in Agriculture at Penn State, I end up hearing this term quite often actually, but what does it really mean? Biodiversity centers on the idea that many different organisms live in the same general vicinity or environment creating a sort of mini-ecosystem. The level of biodiversity can be measured anywhere from a very small scale to a very large scale and researchers on this topic study how these diverse organisms coexist in the same area together and still survive. Sometimes we might even think that when we look at our neighbor next door “how do we do that?”! Biodiversity is an important aspect of the environmental system because if everything was exactly the same, we would all be prone to the exact same diseases and it would be more difficult to come up with new inventions, especially, since so many of our ideas actually come from nature, to name a few issues. This kind of reminds me of discussing monoculture in my Ag classes. Monoculture is when a farmer only grows one crop and one crop only in the same spot from year to year to year. Consequently this means that the soil can be depleted of all of a particular nutrient, the crops are all susceptible to the same diseases, and thus if a pathogen or insect pest arrives on the scene, all could be lost since all of the fields would then be affected. So biodiversity makes things more interesting!

  1. Finally in a third paragraph of 150-250 words, talk about what factors might contribute to the biodiversity or lack thereof in a given area.

The level of biodiversity can depend and be affected by a number of different things, such as the weather, the latitude, the population, etc. With regards to the weather, Biodiversity can vary with very humid climates, hot and dry ones, ones with a lot of rainfall and so on. In State College, the climate is fairly cool and somewhat humid. Winters can be very cold, so any organisms which live here must be capable of either withstanding these cold temperatures and the snow and ice or be able to hibernate. Consequently we have some bears, many insects and fungi, which thrive in the humid climate characteristic of our summers and falls. Besides the climate, there are other things which govern the level of diversity. Globalization of business, which may in turn encourage monoculture because certain areas are better for growing a certain crop than others and which can now be transported just about everywhere in the world with globalization.

  1. For the last part of this assignment, find one image that represents biodiversity in your understanding of the term. Include it with your blog post and add a short description of why you feel this can relate to biodiversity.


This picture represents biodiversity to me because I can look at the mushrooms there and imagine all of the organisms which nourish themselves on the fruiting structure of the fungus. The dead leaves of fall lay around the mushrooms and one can envision how they will be decomposed by the organisms in the soils, such as insects and worms. The mushrooms are also wet, indicating the weather was rainy and thus very beneficial for the fungi as well as the other plants in the forest along with it. This is biodiversity on a very small scale, but I think it’s pretty neat how many different processes and organisms one can imagine operating there with just one picture.


Climate Change and politics – Sara Getson


  1. The core ideas behind my systems diagram have mainly to do with distracting ourselves from the main problem and how backhanded strategies will lead to further distrust and less action toward the real goal at hand. Since WikiLeaks occurred, now everyone knows what is going on and what to watch out for. Everyone will be on their guard to protect themselves. This makes people even greedier for what they feel they need, deserve, or are owed. Others might even begin doing similar things in order to accomplish their own personal agendas. Through this, appeasement and bribery may even take place and increase, however where would this money come from? Furthermore, even if this money was collected, what is the point in giving it to these countries, when instead it could go toward new technologies and strategies to reduce our emissions and help us to devise ways of adapting to the changing climate? By simply trying to convince other countries to agree to our desired agenda, what is really being accomplished here? This plan can only lead to greater dissent and further distrust among nations, indicating that we still don’t understand the real issues at state. This effort must be a collective action in order to actually do anything, whether that be to reduce our emissions or simply adapt to the situation, we must work as a team to get things done, not as enemies and thieves. This issue concerns everyone on this planet and not only is it a collective effort, but is also not just a question for governments and politics, but for everyone and must also include individual efforts as well.


  1. I think that it was probably for the better overall that these schemes have come out into the open. It’s kind of like when a child steals a piece of candy or does something else wrong, if he is not caught, then he won’t learn from his mistakes and will continue to do that wrong things as long as he sees that it works for him. On the flip side, if the young child is caught and warns against doing such a thing again, he may learn from his mistake and refrain from such immoral actions in the future.

In this situation, the US, as well as some other countries it would seem to me, was trying to push their own agenda and make happen what would be solely in their best interest. The US wanted other countries to back them in their agreement and some other countries wanted monetary compensation for “not being as responsible for the climate change as other nations”. This doesn’t make sense to me though because where are these funds going to come from? Where will the US obtain them and if they do not succeed in procuring them, then they have just blatantly lied to these other nations, which can only lead to negative consequences in the future.

Personally, I can’t seem to understand why government officials and politicians can’t simply discuss the issues at hand and work together to accomplish their goals, especially when it may literally mean our survival or destruction if we cannot adapt to our changing environment. I feel that the time spent on such petty problems as personal gain should be put to the wayside and that money ought to be spent on better ways of mitigating the changing climate and/or adapting ourselves and our technologies to the changing environment.

Sara Getson Module 8- Tuscany, Italy

1. Since I actually live in State College, I looked on the Nathan map for the Eastern US. In areas slightly inland from the coast, as I would describe State College judging by the map scale, there is a high chance of heavy rain and tropical cyclones. Hailstorms, tornadoes, and wildfires do not pose a significant threat. During El Nino, storms occur less frequently and the weather is warmer, conversely during La Nina there is an increase in storms. This map is fairly good at estimating these phenomena; however it does not take into account the particularities of the region such as mountain ranges and other more local aspects of the area.

2. From the Hungarian map, I chose a disaster in Tuscany, Italy. There has been noted a biological hazard in that region killing 4 people, the hazard being a Meningococcal meningitis C outbreak. This type of hazard would be possible in State College since it is caused by bacteria when entering the bloodstream, although it has been mostly observed in areas in Europe.

The total population of Tuscany is 3,749,430 which, since it is an entire region, is significantly larger than that of State College which is roughly 100,000, consequently 4 casualties from this outbreak amounts to about 1000th of a percent of the Tuscan population.  For the State College population that would amount to maybe one person, if that.

Individuals who are more vulnerable to this disease, are those with weak immune systems and young children. Ways in which this might be aided would be to encourage people not to touch their faces since the bacteria are spread by contact and then entry into the blood stream. Also increase immune system health in the community through healthy nutrition.

3. From personal experience and talking with my parents who have lived in State College for the past 25 years, I have ascertained that State College is indeed very susceptible to heavy rains at times, ice storms, and strong winds. These may sometimes lead to power outages, trees falling, car accidents, and many other hazards.

4. In order to decrease the number of power outages due to trees falling over in strong winds and storms, we could potentially move power lines away from areas where there are many trees. Other than that, we can really only prepare for the worst by making sure we have adequate storm drainage to prevent flooding and fast reacting teams to handle trees and power issues.

These issues are best brought to the attention of the town supervisors and mayor so that they can ensure that funding and organization go toward these areas.

As for me, I can make sure that my house is prepared for such disasters. Making sure there is a generator in case of an outage, as well as lights and perhaps water collection units for some of the storm water. Ensuring that the basement of the house is protected is also an important aspect.

Sara Getson – Urban Planning from State College to Copenhagen to Detroit

I actually live literally just outside the town of State College, Pennsylvania, the home of Penn State’s University Park campus. State College is primarily a college town where the population actually doubles during each school year. The town’s resident population is around 50,000 people and then when the students all return it jumps up to around 100,000 inhabitants. State College is roughly 4.5 square miles large. I would say that the main downtown area of State College is fairly urban downtown, while the suburb, Overlook Heights (where I live), would be an automobile suburb. Everything is relatively close together, well within walking or biking distance, however it certainly is not pedestrian oriented. Most people drive their cars here and there. Biking is becoming more common, however it is still rather uncomfortable to bike on the road alongside automobiles. There are a number of bike paths to get from place to place by bike, but we’re still working on constructing more of them.

The first city that I would like to talk about is Copenhagen, Denmark. In the module it was discussed how Denmark has established car free streets and slow zones. I think this is a great idea, exactly for the reason I discussed above when talking about State College. There are bike paths, but simply not enough and it isn’t really safe to bike alongside cars and trucks on the road. This traffic calming not only makes it safer for bikers and helps to establish a social norm of biking and exercise, but it is also sustainable in that nothing is taken from the environment to fuel the bicycle nor does it give off dangerous chemicals or emissions. I suppose the one major downside to this idea would be that for some people, this method of transportation simply isn’t possible.

The second city discussed in the module that I would like to comment on is Detroit, Michigan. I find it incredibly interesting how people actually began to ‘urban farm’ there. The fact that there are so many abandoned areas in the city and that people actually decided to grow food there is quite amazing. Actually, even when looking at State College, I think that there is quite a bit of underutilized space. By farming in the city the way they are in Detroit, they can actually produce their own food and not have to worry about transporting it miles away. It is also natural because, as they said in the video, they simply don’t have the money to buy pesticides etc. This allows for a very sustainable method of food production. This indeed is a collective action as well on the part of the residents of the city. Penn State is starting to do things like this with their student farm, but we still have a way to go, I think.

No meat on Fridays

In my Church, we do not eat any meat on Fridays (especially during the time period before Easter). Thus when confronted with a meat dish on a Friday, I need to find another alternative to that dish and when at my church on a Friday we all eat vegetables, pasta, pizza, pierogies, etc. This social norm thus influences my choice to have meat on Fridays and in fact could be better for both the environment and my own health because it lessens the amount of meat I consume, as well as those within my church. Consequently even though we do this more as a form of sacrifice and reverence, it can also be seen as a sort of social norm which encourages a collective action to help the environment as well.

As stated in the previous paragraph, this social norm within my church thus promotes a collective action to help the environment and sustainability, if only by a small amount. Now this is mainly a religious choice, but can also be tied to societal issues such as hunger (famine) and nutrition. For one day each week, we sacrifice something we really enjoy and choose to give up what others might not have access to as we do in the US. Many people in other areas of the world cannot afford to meat because it is too expensive, while vegetables are often easier to grow even at home. This also allows me the opportunity to make sure that I intake more vegetables and fruits to ensure proper nutrition. Although I enjoy eating meat and most likely will never become a vegetarian (although I do respect people who can do that), it gives me to a chance to sacrifice and be cognizant of something more that my own desires.


Sara Getson – PaveGen and Rio Tinto

  1. This case study was taken from the following website:–-Achieving-the-Goal-of-Net-Positive-Impact-on-Biodiversity.pdf. This study highlights the efforts of the company Rio Tinto in various countries, although their main area is in Australia and North America; however they are branching out elsewhere in the world. They are a world leading company in “finding, mining and processing mineral resources”. This case study illustrates this company’s efforts to implement a biodiversity strategy, which would help them to achieve their business goals, but also conserve the world’s resources and environmental areas. Their main goal was to achieve an NPI (Net Positive Impact) on the natural environment. This approach thus exemplifies the idea of environmental justice because through this, they can attempt to keep the environment healthy for future generations to come.
  1. This case study was taken from the PaveGen company website, producer of kinetic energy powered walkways and floor tiles, and was done in Saint Omer, France in 2014 outside of a train station. Here is a link to the website . The goal of this study was to determine how much energy could be obtained from simply walking each day. As people tread on a sidewalk with the inset pavers, they are actually creating energy by the pressure they exert onto it. Since they were placed outside of a train station with high foot traffic, they were able to obtain enough energy to power bench lighting and USB ports. This is sustainable because everyone walks anyway, furthermore these tiles are made of about 90% recycled material. The only thing I would be wary of with this product is what happens to it when it needs to be replaced? As with the electronic issue discussed in the module, we would have to find out what would happen to it afterward.
  1. I live in State College, PA, a college town with a total population of about 100,000 during the school year. The first company, Rio Tinto is a mining company, but they are still trying to find ways to make their business sustainable and promote environmental justice by implementing the NPI so that, although they will still continue mining, they can mitigate a fraction of it, leave more than they take, so to speak. Here at Penn State, I think we try to do a similar thing with recycling. We still produce a lot of waste, but the university has developed an easier way to recycle by having bins for nearly everything around the campus, thereby mitigating our negative impact on the environment. As for the sidewalk pavers, I don’t believe we do anything like that here in State College, and although we are not a big city with train stations, etc. the campus does have its fair share of foot traffic. Neither of these issues really has to do with geography, except for how large the population is in a particular area and how much the people there are motivated to conserve energy and biodiversity.

Thoughts on Water — Sara Getson

Part 1A: I live in State College, Pennsylvania, home of the University Park campus of Penn State. Here the water is mainly supplied through the run-off coming from Tussey Mountain. From there it then makes its way into the ground water table. Subsequently State College and the surrounding boroughs obtain their water through wells located in various places around the area. This water can then be stored in water towers and/or brought to one’s home through the plumping system, of course. Once the water has been used in one’s home and then goes down the drain it is taken to one of the many waste water treatment plants in the area. Finally this water, though it is clean enough to be recirculated, is instead sold to companies for various uses and for agricultural purposes.

Part 1B: For this section I recorded data for an average weekend day where nearly all of the household tasks need to be completed in my house. I chose to gather information for Saturday, February 6th, 2016.

1 shower (~15min)………………………………………………………………….. 5 gallons

1 dishwasher load………………………………………………………………… 10 gallons

1 hand dishwashing load…………………………………………………… 20 gallons

2 clothes washing loads……………………………………. 25 gallons each => 50gallons

7 toilet flushes……………………………………………..  3 gallons each => 21 gallons

8 8oz water glasses………………………………………………….. 8 oz. each => 64 oz.

12 hand washings……………………………………………… 1 gallon each => 12 gallons

1 teeth brushing……………………………………………………..…… 1 gallon


Total……………………………………………………………….. 119 gallons and 64 ounces


Part 1C:

We use water in cooking, washing clothing, dishes, taking baths, washing hands, drinking water, flushing toilets, brushing teeth and in the summer, also watering our indoor and outdoor plants and flowers. Even our heating and refrigerator use water! Unfortunately I couldn’t do much about the refrigerator or the heating; however in an attempt to live on two gallons per day, I still drank the same amount of water, as I viewed this to be a necessity. On Sunday it was not necessary to wash the clothing. Dishes were still a priority as were hand washings and toilet flushes. I ended up doing most of the same things, although I was more cognizant of how much water was being used. During the experiment, I planned when I should wash my hands to cut down on water usage. This meant that I handled all dirty items first and then washed my hands. Showers were cut down to about 5-7 minutes and dishwasher loads were completely full before running the cycle. Further water saving tactics would take more than a day to implement unfortunately. Overall, I’m sad to say that the experiment did not succeed in my household, as we still ended up using more than 2 gallons of water, however we did cut down our usage from 119 gallons (from above) to about 42 gallons. Although this was just an individual action, if we put the entire class together, it would become a collective effort to conserve our water! The trouble comes in when no one thinks about the consequences of their actions, which can lead to such problems like the Tragedy of the Commons.

Geography in incredibly important when talking about water. Depending upon where one lives, one might have access to too much water or not enough due to climate and area. This is why many older towns, especially in Europe were built on or very close to a river or water source.

Module 3 – Ethics perspectives Sara Getson

  1. Do the ends justify the means (ends ethics vs. means ethics)?

If we are going for an answer that would attempt to include any possible situation, then I would have to say no, the ends do not justify the means. Dealing with means and ends ethics can be tricky, due to the myriad of situations that one can find themselves in. However if we take a look at a successful individual, one who has achieved a high ranking position in a company or in the government, doesn’t the way by which he got there and achieved such things matter? If he lied and stole on his way up the ladder of success, doesn’t that somehow “undo” the end result? Someone once told me that “two wrongs do not make a right”, so if we do whatever we have to, whether that be right or wrong, in order to achieve a particular goal, I would say that we have lost our sense of direction in the ethical sense. If individuals only focus on the end goals, they may not be good role models to others in the community either if they conduct shady business on the way up to the top. Another quote which comes to mind is “It’s the journey, not the destination that matters”, meaning that it is the choices we made and the actions we took along the way. Whether the end result turned out exactly how we expected it to or not, we would know that we tried to make the best decisions we could at the time along the way.

  1. Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?

I tend to think that as long as the decisions made are good and appropriate ones, it may not matter how they were arrived at. The reason that process might need to be focused on more than the actual decision is so that we can sort of come up with a set of guidelines for how to make good decisions, kind of a “how-to” book, if you will. By creating these rules, laws and orders in government (and other areas), we are attempting to accommodate nearly all individuals and situations that one might face in a particular field/area of government or business. Thus just because a set procedure is established for certain types of decision making, does not mean that certain individuals would not corrupt that system or use it in a way unintended for a particular end. My thought is that if the decision is ultimately a good and honorable one, then it doesn’t necessarily matter what the thought process was or what obstacles the individual had to overcome in order to arrive at the decision.

  1. Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?

This is definitely a challenging question, because it is incredibly difficult to say whose life is worth more. In my life in general, I would tend to side with the argument for more altruism and less selfishness, simply because I do tend to see far too much selfishness out in the world. I would say that my life is worth about the same as someone else’s however I would more likely give things up for someone else (especially for those whom I care a lot about), rather than keep them for myself and be miserly. However, this is not to say that everyone should consider themselves as a “doormat”, that is to say they must still require things such as respect, etc. This is the main problem though with too many people acting selfishly. If everyone was to act even the slightest bit more altruistically, then we would be able to better look out for others since we wouldn’t have to worry quite as much about ourselves because others would also be looking out for us. It’s an interesting positive or negative feedback loop, depending upon how you look at the situation. One could also look at it as a question of “for the good of the one? Or for the good of the many?”, as we hear in Star Trek. Sometimes to do the right or appropriate thing is to put the needs of others before the needs of oneself.


(These of course are my own opinions from my own experience and teaching, so I invite any and all commentary on the subjects presented above.)

Biogas in India – Sara Getson

This is a great example of a human-environmental system where the population effects the environment (at the level of deforestation and smoke emissions) and the environment also effects how the people live in India. Through the use of biogas there are some instances of positive feedback loops, especially where the production of biogas is shown to increase crop yields. By increasing crop yields, there is thus more food for the human population as well as for the animals, which in turn causes more dung to be produced and allows the cycle to continue with the use of even more biofuel. The trees are somewhat resilient, although overharvesting will lead to a point of no return. This shows how the use of biogas instead of burning trees for fuel, keeps the trees at a stable number. This method also shows how improved technology can lead to a better human-environment relationship overall. Upon reviewing Marten’s systems diagram, and then comparing it with my own, I note that they both include an environmental sphere as well as a human impact sphere (How it relates to human society and the economy). There are also positive feedback loops shown in both of the diagrams. They differ however in their detailed organization in that my diagram shows the flow of impacts within each individual sphere while Marten’s shows how each sphere impacts the other. Similarities and differences arise mainly due to what is being studied, I would say. Marten’s systems diagram is looking at a much bigger picture, whereas mine is looking at a particular issue. Seeing these differences can aid us in understanding the details of an issue as well as how they might impact issues on a larger scale.Biogas_seg5335

M01 – Getting to know you: Sara Getson introduction

Salutations everyone,

My name is Sara Getson and I was born and raised in State College, just outside of town and currently live at home with my mom and sister. I bike to campus every day from my house (I must say, it takes great perseverance sometimes when it is very cold!). I am a senior currently pursuing degrees in French language and Plant Science here at Penn State and hope to either do research on bioremediation or do some work with Plant pathology extension after graduation. For my major I needed to choose an ethics course and GEOG 030 was one of my options. “I loved geography in high school, learning about various countries and cultures,” I said to myself, consequently I chose this course for which I am super excited! As for interesting things I do, well, I kind of try to get my hands into a little bit of everything, I suppose. I work as a library assistant at the local public library; I love rock climbing and am also a part of the Penn State ballroom dance team. I love reading, cooking and classical music. Through my studies I have also learned how to cultivate edible mushrooms, and grow some pretty neat plants.

Being that I endeavor to become a plant scientist and am interested in the topic of bioremediation, I find that the concept of Human-Environment interactions to be very applicable to my subject of interest. In mining, oil drilling, and many other related areas, governance plays a major role in how people respond to various challenges, decisions, and human requirements. In some ways pollution caused by such things as mining and mine disasters may, in part, occur due to decisions made by human beings, the results of which now require remediation. I think that how humans interact with the environment is a very important issue when discussing geography and life into the future so that we can make good decisions and continue to thrive on this earth.